Thursday, November 29, 2018

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas - Review

The fascinating stories and origins behind Christmas traditions such as the colors of red and green, the Christmas tree, caroling, nativity scenes, the Yule log, gift-giving, stockings, advent wreaths, mistletoe, and holly.
The cheer of a crackling hearth fire. Colorful cards from friends and loved ones. An evergreen tree festooned with ornaments. The golden traditions of Christmas—gifts, wreaths, stockings, carols, mistletoe, and more—infuse our celebration of the season with meaning and glowing memories. And, in ways you may not realize, they point us to the birth of Christ. Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas reveals the people, places, and events that shaped the best-loved customs of this merriest of holidays. Here are spiritual insights, true-life tales, and captivating legends to intrigue you and your family and bring new luster and depth to your celebration of Jesus’ birth. 
The traditions of Christmas lend beauty, awe, and hope to the holiday, causing people all over the world to anticipate it with joy. The stories in this book will warm your heart as you rediscover the true and eternal significance of Christmas.
Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas
By Ace Collins

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas is an engaging look at the most beloved traditions of Christmas. I love history, and what could be more interesting that learning the stories behind our Christmas traditions?

I was very pleased with how Mr. Collins would share the legends and folklore behind each tradition, and then bring it forward into the traditions we recognize today. He is quick to point out that these legends are just that, a legend and not a known fact. In some cases he shared more than one folklore, as each country would have varying legends behind the same tradition.

One fact that I did not know and found to be surprising was that in England and America Christmas was not a time for families and holy reflection until the mid-1800's. While other European countries, such as Germany, celebrated Christmas as a time for families, England and America celebrated quite differently!

A few of my favorite chapters were:

Christmas Cards: The story of a busy English Knight who sent out an artistic Christmas card rather than the usual Christmas letter. His first Christmas cards snowballed into a beloved tradition.

Christmas Seals: This story of generosity and love that began in Denmark, but eventually spread to the US was truly inspirational. I was touched how one man's heart of compassion impacted so many suffering with tuberculosis.

Decorations and Ornaments: I loved learning the stories behind how ornaments were originally made and used. It was interesting to read of the progression from simple handmade ornaments to blown glass ornaments and eventually factory made ornaments. It was also surprising to see how world events played a part in the changes of how ornaments were made.

Lights: I had often heard the story of Martin Luther adding candles to his Christmas tree, but I was equally enthralled by the history of electric  Christmas lights! Edward Johnson, an employee of Thomas Edison, made quite an impression on New York City when he displayed his Christmas tree, decked out in electric lights, for all to see in the front window of his home.

Poinsettias: Poinsettias had an unusual and at times a rather unpleasant history in Mexico for many years. It wasn't until the 1800's that poinsettias were introduced to America. A Mr. Poinsett brought back seeds from the flowers after a political trip to Mexico. The circumstances surrounding his trip and return, as well as Mr. Poinsett's personality were amusing to read about.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: At a time when Catholicism was banned in England the Catholic church wrote this beloved Christmas carol. Each day represents a Biblical principle, for example the Trinity, the fruits of the Spirit, the ten commandments, etc.

There are a total of twenty-six chapter in Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, so there is much to learn and enjoy in this little volume! Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas is hardcover and would make a lovely gift.

My only caveat would be the authors subtle chiding of Christians who do not celebrate the tradition of Santa Claus with his apparent enthusiasm. I was intrigued to read about the real life Saint Nicholas and King Wenceslas. I think their good deeds are worth remembering, however I personally just don't believe they are still alive and traveling the globe once yearly. : )

With all that said I would definitely recommend this book, and it is one that I am sure we will enjoy for many years to come.

*I received a complimentary copy of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas from Book Look Blogger in exchange for my honest review*

Friday, November 16, 2018

Snow and Home

This morning we awoke to over a foot of snow. Generally we do not have this much snow in November, so it was a bit of a surprise!

With the shorter days and longer nights it helps to keep busy with fun projects. I thought I would share a couple of my recent projects today.
Over the past couple of years I have read several articles about the many health benefits of bone broth. Making bone broth has been on my "to do" list for just as long. Last month I felt like I was coming down with a cold, but after drinking hot bone broth throughout the day all symptoms subsided. At that point I decided I needed to learn how to make bone broth and stock up for the winter ahead!

Making bone broth in a crock pot is very simple. I took the carcass of a chicken that I had roasted for dinner the night before, and placed that in my crock pot with some celery, garlic and onion. I covered the carcass and vegetables with water, then add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. I cooked my broth on low for 24 hours. From what I have read you may cook the broth anywhere from 12-36 hours. I really enjoyed this article about making homemade bone broth.
Last month I made my first successful batch of soap! I was thrilled. I first attempted to make soap about eight years ago. Unfortunately each time I tried to make a batch of soap something would go wrong. Each batch was a failure for a different reason, so I would overcome one problem only to create a new problem. In great frustration I gave up. About two years ago while going through some totes in the attic we came across my tote of soap making equipment and supplies. Adam was intrigued and expressed an interest in making some soap. I explained my past experiences, and then told him he could use my supplies at his own risk! : ) He did, and much to my surprise he made a beautiful batch of lavender soap! After that Adam made several batches of lovely soap.

Witnessing Adam's success finally inspired me to give soap making a second try, and I am so glad I did! Adam guided me through how he made soap, and explained how I might have gone wrong in the past. Since then I have made three batches of soap: rose geranium/patchouli, bergamot/Earl Grey and lavender goat's milk (my favorite!). The soap to the left is the bergamot/Earl Grey, the black specks are pieces of Earl Grey tea, it smells so lovely! This is the recipe I used.
When the weather began to grow cooler this fall I began searching for a fall jacket to purchase for Jemimah. Much to my surprise it was difficult to find a simple, cozy jacket. All of the girls' jackets I found were too lightweight or a color I didn't care for. I considered sewing a jacket, but our nearest JoAnn's Fabric store is a bit of a drive and she needed a jacket sooner than later. 

The first cool autumn day that we went shopping I was considering where I might purchase material to sew a jacket, or a jacket, and decided to visit a Mennonite general store not far from where we live. I spotted this simple gray jacket, only to discover that it was a boys' jacket. All of the girls' jackets were very lightweight.
The price was right, and it was very warm. So I decided I could over look the fact that it was a boys' jacket. Jemimah on the other hand could not overlook the fact that it was a boys' jacket and refused to wear it. 

My mom then had the brilliant idea of adding floral ribbon, and I decided to add a little embroidery too. Jemimah now loves her jacket! It was such a quick and easy was to transform a simple "boys'" jacket into a darling little girls' jacket. It ended up costing less too, less even then sewing a jacket myself. It is so neat to see how the Lord provides!
Earlier this month I finally got around to making apple sauce. We had purchased a bushel of apples, and with so many apple on hand we have enjoyed eating a variety of apple dishes. I believe the unanimous favorite has been apple crisp. It is a snap to prepare, but absolutely delicious served warm from the oven with a glass of milk or cup of tea.

Apple Crisp
5 cups apples, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Spread apples in 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl, and rub in the butter with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Spread evenly over the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is browned. Serve with heavy cream.

I hope you are all enjoying the slower days of autumn. What projects are keeping you busy on these snowy days?

"The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad." Psalm 126:3

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Patchwork Quilt

Last month I completed a pinwheel patchwork quilt that I have been working on for a very long time. I actually began work on this quilt prior to marrying Adam. I planned to make a twin quilt for my bed back home using scrap fabric from my many sewing projects. After becoming engaged I had the ambitious idea of sewing a queen sized quilt. I continued to add blocks to my collection, but never quite enough to complete the quilt.
Unfortunately the pinwheel blocks sat in my work basket untouched for a few years until recently.

 My sister found two vintage wooden twin beds along side the road one day. She refurbished one for her little one and gave me the other. It was then that I knew that my patchwork blocks had finally found their destiny! : ) I had enough blocks to sew a twin sized quilt.
This has been a special project for me. Many of the fabric used are now over 15 years old, while some are more recent. The blue and pink square above was sewn from fabric left over from two dresses I sewed for myself. The pink on white calico was a dress I sewed when I was 17. I wore it often to when we began our sewing business and sold at a local Farmers' market. The blue was left from a dress I sewed when engaged to Adam. I wore the dress while on our honeymoon.
The pretty pink rose fabric in the block above was leftover from my sisters' bridesmaid dresses.
Instead of purchasing extra wide backing fabric I decided to piece together some fabric I had on hand. I found it a little difficult to "sandwich" all three layers together. I ended up watching a video that explained how, that definitely helped! But still it was a little tricky since I didn't have a lot of space to spread out.
 I also found a neat video that explained how to attach binding. If I hadn't been in such a hurry I would have liked to have hand stitched the binding, but decided to machine stitch in order to save time. Jemimah was quite impressed with the quilting pins I purchased. She expressed her disappointment that the pins were not a permanent part of the quilt. : )
Instead of quilting my quilt, I used embroidery thread ties. I spent one weekend working away at stitching in approximately 200 ties! It was fun, and possibly my favorite step in creating this quilt.

This project has certainly been a learning experience! It is far from perfect, but with each mistake I have learned how I will do things differently next time.
 Winston also approves of the new bed and quilt. Whenever he comes into the house, and then disappears, we know that he has gone to Jemimah's room!

Adam is now hoping that I will sew a quilt for our bed. I hope to at some point. I definitely have enough scarp fabric to do so! He is always hinting that my scrap fabric collection is getting a little out of hand. I guess I have my work cut out for me... well not quite.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Grace Livingston Hill Biographies

Over the years Grace Livingston Hill has been one of my favorite authors. I enjoy collecting vintage copies of her books, and have now read over forty. As much as I enjoy her work, up until a couple of months ago I knew very little about this incredible author. Following a suggestion from my mom (a fellow G.L. Hill fan) I sought out a biography of Grace Livingston Hill. After discovering this list of her biographies I purchased Grace Livingston Hill: Her Story and Her Writings by Jean Karr published in 1948, a year after her death, and Grace Livingston Hill: The Life Story of One of America's Best-Loved Writer's, As Told by Her Grandson by Robert Munce published in 1986. Both biographies were informative and enjoyable to read. I would highly recommend both books to any one interested in learning about the life of Grace Livingston Hill.
 I read Grace Livingston Hill: The Life Story of One of America's Best-Loved Writer's, As Told by Her Grandson by Robert Munce first, and I am glad that I did. This biography offers a more personal look at Mrs. Hill's life. The work begins with a humorous poem Mrs. Hill wrote to her son-in-law for his birthday. I was glad to discover that G.L. Hill had a good sense humor! Robert Munce then related the story surrounding Grace's birth: she was born on Easter Sunday just two days after the assassination of President Lincoln. It was a tumultuous time in the history of our country, and for the Livingston family. G.L. Hill was an only child, raised by two wonderful Christian parents. It was a pleasure for me to catch a glimpse of what life was like in the Livingston home. There was a special closeness in the family and extended family, as they were all united in their love for Jesus.

It was fascinating to discover that G.L. Hill's mother was also a published author. I had learned some time before that her aunt Isabella Alden was a popular author, but never knew that her mother wrote as well. Both aunt and mother encouraged Grace to pursue her skills in writing, and proved wonderful, positive critics of her work.

Mr. Munce's biography shares many wonderful anecdotes of their time spent in Florida, G.L. Hill's first marriage proposal, her work at a local Christian college, how she met her husband Frank Hill and her marriage to Frank Hill. Life was often very difficult for G.L. Hill, for instance losing her husband of seven years and her father in short succession.

Munce also describes her unlikely second marriage (which was a bit of a surprise to me!), the building of her beautiful stone house and her mission work with local immigrants. I loved reading the descriptions of her house! The detailed description of the layout and decor were a real treat to the imagination.

After reading Grace Livingston Hill: The Life Story of One of America's Best-Loved Writer's, As Told by Her Grandson I wished that I could have known Grace Livingston Hill personally. She was a caring, hardworking woman with a heart to share the love of Jesus.
 Grace Livingston Hill: Her Story and Her Writings by Jean Karr focused more on Grace Livingston Hill's career and only briefly touched on her personal life. However I enjoyed reading about how some of her books were inspired. Karr's book also included full page pictures, whereas the pictures in Munce's book were smaller and harder to see.

I was interested to learn how Mrs. Hill's publishers requested that she remove religious themes from her stories, and she staunchly refused to comply with their demands. The resulting conflict forced her to switch publishers, and as a single mom I am sure that was a difficult step of faith to take! However it was inspiring to see how the Lord to care of her family and how Grace Livingston Hill put Jesus first in her writing. Later in her career she received countless letters telling her how her books had encouraged and inspired soldiers wearied and heartsick after the wars. Many were even led to salvation through her books. What a reward for her unwavering steadfastness!

Karr noted that Mrs. Hill did not go to the movies, but did enjoy listening to the radio. One of her favorite programs was the Kate Smith show. I was also interested to learn that two of Grace Livingston Hill's favorite authors were Kathleen Norris and Temple Bailey, since they happen to be two authors I also enjoy.

To close I thought I would share a couple paragraphs from Grace Livingston Hill: Her Story and Her Writings by Jean Karr.

"She (Mrs.Hill) was always busy- cooking, cleaning, tending the lawn and working in the garden, and sewing for two little girls who were growing very fast. She made all their clothing for them, and there was always the task of letting out seams and lengthening little dresses to make them last a while longer.

As Margaret and Ruth approached school age, their busy mother determined not to send them to school at once, but gave them lessons at home, in the way her parents had taught her as a child. So in between the routine duties of the household, there were classes in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, geography, history, and arithmetic. Mrs. Hill was evidently as good a teacher as she was a housekeeper. She continued to teach the two girls until Margaret was eleven years old and Ruth was eight, at which time they entered the public school." (Page 63)

"Grace Livingston Hill died at the age of eighty-two, on February 23, 1947. Her life span had begun in the troubled Civil War days immediately following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and ended during the period of international confusion and distrust that came as an aftermath of the second great World War and the discovery of the atomic bomb. It was a long way to come, from the days of the horse-and-buggy trips with her minister father to the days of atomic energy and stratoshere flights. It had been in general, a satisfying life, but the world of the 1940's was one in which she didn't feel at home, one which she willingly departed." (page 113)
I hope you have enjoyed this look at these two biographies. They are a wonderful addition to my Grace Livingston Hill book collection. I was touched and inspired by this incredible lady's talent, imagination, fortitude and love for the Lord!

Thursday, October 11, 2018


  This fall has been beautiful. The days have been remarkably warm and summer like. We have been enjoying spending as much time outside as we can, hence my absence from my blog. : ) 

The month of September was lovely! We enjoyed the bounty of our garden, which was our best harvest since living here. Adam's berry bushes really took off this year. In the picture above is just some of the elderberries he collected this fall! We have frozen the berries and look forward to making elderberry pies in the near future. Adam's blackberries, red raspberries and red currants did equally well. We have been enjoying delicious pies and jams with even greater pleasure since the fruit came from our own garden.
 This is just one day of my canning efforts. Like previous years I canned tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, soups, zucchini, pickles and several jams. If interested in any of the recipes I used, I included links in this post. In addition to canning I froze some baked goods this year. We had such an abundance of zucchini I decided to make a variety of zucchini breads and our favorite zucchini cookies to freeze. Already we have enjoyed baking a few cookies or a mini loaf of zucchini bread on a rainy weekend.
 Last month we celebrated Jemimah's fourth birthday! She is such a sweet little girl and a wonderful friend. We officially began homeschooling last month. Last year we did some Pre-K work with work books I picked up at the store. This year we are using a complete Pre-K curriculum. We are enjoying the curriculum and Jemimah looks forward to school time each morning.
 With the return of cooler weather I have resumed my habit of making a weekly batch of soup. Some may remember one of my favorite recipes that I shared quite a while back, stuffed pepper soup. Recently my mom had the brilliant idea of making cabbage roll soup, in much the same way we made our stuffed pepper soup. It is delicious, and I may like it even better than the stuffed pepper soup!
 For those who may like to try to make some themselves, here is the recipe.

Cabbage Roll Soup
  • 1 cup rice (prepare with water amount recommended)* 
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4-5 cups of shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained 
  • 1 can (14 ounces) beef broth
Prepare rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook the beef and onion until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the shredded cabbage, spaghetti sauce, tomatoes and broth. Simmer until cabbage is fully cooked and tender. Add prepared rice; heat through.
*In my last batch I omitted the rice and added extra cabbage, it was still delicious! 
 Throughout the summer months I did very little knitting or crocheting due to the heat, but I did manage to finally complete my socks in time for the cooler weather. : ) I am so pleased with the finished results! I have begun to knit a pair of socks for Jemimah, and I suspect that they will take a lot less time, considering the size difference.
This week I have enjoyed collecting some of my scrap fabric to create a Dresden plate design for a pillow cover. I made a similar pillow cover last year, and I have wanted to make another for the other rocking chair in our living room.
 Here is a picture of the pillow I made last year, to give you an idea of how the pillow will look when finished. The design is fairly simple to sew together and I love to see so many beloved calico scraps being put to a good use.
 Speaking of fabric.... when we were out the other weekend I discovered that one of my favorite fabric shops was having a sale. I couldn't resist purchasing a couple of my favorites with aprons in mind.
Recently I added a few "autumnal themed" items to my Etsy shop.
 And of course a few new aprons!
 And to close this post I'd like to introduce our kitten Miranda. We adopted Miranda back in June and she is truly a joy! Jemimah loves her dearly, as do Adam and I. We named Miranda after one of my favorite Grace Livingston Hill characters, and she certainly is living up to her namesake's reputation for being mischievous but loving!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding; 
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6

Little Book of Thanks- Review

It happens every autumn. As soon as the leaves begin to turn bright, beautiful colors, the year sprints ahead on fast-forward! Take a few moments out of the hustle and bustle of the season to sink into a cozy chair with your little one and thank God for everything He’s given us with Precious Moments® Little Book of Thanks.
In the sweet, enduring art style of Precious Moments, this timeless book will help your children recognize all the wonderful things God has given them! Read along, and you will remember to enjoy the simple things, like singing silly songs, jumping in a pile of leaves, and watching the seasons change. The short, rhyming verses in this classic Precious Moments book don’t take much time to read at all, and they will create memories that last forever.
Precious Moments Little Book of Thanks offers you the chance to be thankful for all that you have and for the ones with whom you get to share every precious moment.

Little Book of Thanks
By Jean Fisher

We have a couple of other seasonal Precious Moments books, so when I saw Little Book of Thanks I knew it would be the perfect addition to collection! 

Little Book of Thanks is a sturdy board book filled with charming illustrations of Precious Moments characters celebrating the simple things of life. Each page features a prayer of thanksgiving. The topics vary from family, to God's creativity in creating us, thanksgiving for laughter, healthy food- just to name a few. The prayer is then followed by a poem and Scripture verse. I was pleased to see lines from some classic autumnal poems included too.

It seems that Thanksgiving is often over looked, especially when it comes to children's books. Therefore I am pleased to have Little Book of Thanks to share with my daughter. It is a wonderful reminder to be grateful for all the many blessing God gives us each and every day, including something so simple as laughter!

The combination of the illustrations, prayers, poems and Scripture make it a special treasure that I am sure we will look forward to revisiting every autumn.

*I received a complimentary copy of Little Book of Thanks from Book Look Blogger in exchange for my honest review*

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

God's Blessings Day by Day -Review

God’s Blessing Day by Day is a trustworthy devotional compiled by renowned pastors and church leaders. Edited by Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, this devotional is the perfect way to introduce your children and grandchildren to a legacy of faith.
One of the greatest gifts - and greatest challenges - of raising children is introducing them to the ways of God. As parents and grandparents, we want to impart our faith to the children we love so dearly, and it can feel more difficult than ever in the fast-moving, instant-access culture in which we find ourselves.
God’s Blessing Day by Day,compiled by Johnny Hunt and more than 50 pastors and church leaders, is the perfect way to build faith through gratitude.
This easy-to-understand, child-friendly devotional is the perfect way to engage your family. Each devotion is written on topics children care about and includes great prayers and takeaways that will spark conversation as the timeless Word of God instructs and inspires your children.
Impart a deeper connection with the Lord in your children, help them establish healthy habits of devotion and prayer, and equip them with the tools they need to grow their faith.
God's Blessings Day by Day
By Johnny Hunt

Growing up I remember my mom sharing with me the importance of time spent daily in Bible reading and devotions. As a little girl my mom gave me a set of devotionals, one for each month of the year. I read and re-read them throughout my childhood. This helped me begin a life long habit of seeking God at the start of each and every day. I am grateful for this lesson my mom taught me at a young age, and I am hoping to share this lesson with my daughter too!

God's Blessings Day by Day is a wonderful way to introduce the idea of daily devotions to your children. Each devotion includes a verse for the day, an easy to understand illustration of how the verse may apply to the child's life and a short prayer for the day. There are six devotions per week, one per weekday and one per weekend. The weeks are numbered and the book may be started at any time of the year. The book includes a ribbon bookmark, which is very helpful for keeping your place.

One feature of the book my daughter has especially enjoyed are the adorable illustrations of animals throughout the book. They are truly precious. God's Blessings Day by Day is hard cover and of excellent quality. It would make a beautiful gift for children of varying ages. It is easy enough for toddlers to understand, but would be perfect for older children to read to themselves.

I am grateful to have this devotional to share with my daughter. Many times after reading one of the devotions she has asked me a question regarding what we read, which has been a great way to start a conversation about God's truths and how they apply to her life.

*I received a complimentary copy of God's Blessings Day by Day from Book Look Blogger in exchange for my honest review*